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That’s A Wrap: The Final Curtain Draws To A Close On International Youth Silent Film Festival’s Epic 15 Year Journey

After a remarkable fifteen years of nurturing budding talent in the realm of silent cinema, the International Youth Silent Film Festival (IYSFF) bids adieu to its global stage.

Baycourt Community & Arts Centre has been the home of the IYSFF since its Aotearoa debut in 2016. In total, 252 silent films created by a just under 600 young Kiwi filmmakers from across the motu/country were entered into the New Zealand leg of the international competition.

New Zealand filmmakers also stamped their mark internationally, with five Kiwi films winning higher honours at the annual IYSFF Global Awards. These included first-place winning films Crash (2023), The Climb (2022), and Overexposed (2019), second-place film The Chase (2018) and third-place film A Random Act of Kindness (2019).

“The International Youth Silent Film Festival has been a special highlight on our annual events calendar,” said Kaiwhakahaere Hinonga Baycourt / Baycourt manager Reena Snook. “It has been inspiring witnessing the creativity and passion of rangatahi/young people as they embraced the art of filmmaking. I am proud of the role Baycourt has played in showcasing their talent and storytelling to the world.”

Not only was the IYSFF a flagship arts event for Baycourt, it also provided a unique opportunity to showcase the centre’s almost 100-year-old Wurlitzer theatre organ to a younger generation.

“We will absolutely miss having our ‘Mighty Wurli’ celebrated as part of this festival. It was always a real treat to hear Nathan Avakian’s intricate musical scores come to life on this revered instrument,” Snook commented.

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Kiwi filmmakers’ have one final chance to win higher honours at the Global Awards which are taking place in Portland, Oregon, US, on June 9, 2024.

Representing Aotearoa at the Global Awards are 2023 IYSFF NZ first-place winning film Shelf Life, by Te Herenga Waka – Victoria University of Wellington students Amelia Walshe, Sophie Hampson, Esther Schubert, and Max Norwood, second-place film HER by Tauranga Girls’ College students Tearani Wikohika, Yasmin Austwick, and Sienna Burns, and Mum’s Star by Whakatāne filmmaker and inaugural Kōhungahunga – Fledging Filmmaker Award winner Malachi Steel.

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if one of our filmmakers was crowned ‘best of the best’ at the 2024 Global Awards? That would be the perfect end to New Zealand’s successful eight-year partnership with the festival, fingers crossed for a Kiwi three-peat!”

Since 2017, Jannine Spiers has served as the IYSFF NZ Coordinator, bringing her wealth of experience as a Creative Director, Artist, and Production Designer to the role. In this capacity, she worked closely with students and schools, sharing her wealth of knowledge and expertise in filmmaking to help them create films they could be proud of.

“We can all take pride in the profound impact the International Youth Silent Film Festival has had on the lives of our young filmmakers and the broader filmmaking community. The memories and achievements from my time with the festival will surely be cherished for years to come.”

Spiers said it had been a joy to witness rangatahi from around Aotearoa travel to Tauranga for the IYSFF NZ National Awards ceremony and proudly screen their film entries to an appreciative audience of whānau, peers, and industry professionals.

“I know that having our Kiwi filmmakers taking out the Global Awards numerous times really did put us in the spotlight on the international stage for our filmmaking abilities,” she added.

Established in 2009 by American philanthropist Jon ‘JP’ Palanuk, the IYSFF has provided a platform for young filmmakers, to showcase their creativity and storytelling prowess, as well as challenged them to embrace the essence of visual storytelling without relying on dialogue.

Spanning across continents, from the ‘Land of the Long White Cloud' to the historic streets of Europe, the diverse communities of the United States and the vibrant scenes in Australia, the IYSFF has left an indelible mark on the international film landscape. Its featured programs in the Middle East also enriched the festival's cultural diversity, fostering cross-cultural dialogue and understanding through the universal language of cinema.

“We are immensely proud of the journey we have embarked on over the past fifteen years", said IYSFF President and Founder Jon ‘JP’ Palanuk. “The IYSFF has not only provided a platform for young filmmakers to shine but has also cultivated a global community bound by a shared passion for silent cinema.”

“While bidding farewell is bittersweet, we are filled with gratitude for the countless memories, friendships, and stories that have enriched our lives through this extraordinary festival.”

Though the festival may conclude, its spirit will continue to inspire creativity, innovation, and a deep appreciation for the art of silent cinema for years to come.

© Scoop Media

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